For a long time, I perceived the UFC as someone bringing to life the arguments I used to have with friends in the school playground. You know the discussions; who would win between a lion and a Rhino, Batman & Judge Dredd or even Mike Tyson & Bruce Lee. As such I paid UFC little mind, and it remained on the periphery of my perception to the point I could only name a few of the key players that have shaped the UFC into the powerhouse it is today.
So, my first foray into this game was surprisingly painless. The face buttons control each of your four limbs, with the triggers used to guard and perform variations on each of your attacks. As I was intimately familiar with EA’s Fight Night series, the controls were instantly recognisable. The main variation being the control on the right stick which, in Fight Night, controlled your weaving ability, in UFC it is used to initiate a grappling move that brings me to the biggest difference I had to come to terms with in the game.
Being a mixed martial arts title, grappling, wrestling and submissions play as large a part as the stand-up fighting to which I was familiar, so getting used to the various clinches and wrestling moves available was without a doubt a lot more difficult. Once again, your Right stick is front and centre here as the screen is highlighted with a list of clinch positions you can move to from your current grip, all while landing and defending against attacks aimed at breaking your hold. These controls are identical when on the ground, with multiple holds that can be transferred into in order to gain an advantage over your opponent. Once placed into a submission, the screen fills with your movement bars, in which you compete with your opponent to either fill or interrupt the bar in order to get a tap out.Like most of the EA Sports titles, UFC2 packs a punch (pun intended) when it comes to game modes. All of the old familiars are there; Ultimate Team, Online Rivalries, Ranked Championship and Career modes all make an appearance, but UFC 2 also has what it is calling Live Events. These challenges tie in with UFC Fight Night’s, giving you a range of real life matchups to both predict and undertake. Predictions require you to choose a winning fighter, how they won, either by KO/TKO, Decision or Submission and finally in which round they would win. You can then take to the canvas as your selection and try to enact your prediction in game. Should your prediction come to pass, you will earn additional fight night specific card packs for your ultimate team. This is an extremely clever way to encourage fans of the UFC to not only bet on upcoming fights but also to take a greater part in their Ultimate Team build.
Career mode takes you on your journey from new billed fighter to challenging the current champion of your particular ranking. Starting out as a relatively mediocre fighter, with a choice of multiple disciplines on which to begin, you have to win fights and train your way to competing for the title. Training comes in one of three disciplines; Stand-up, which focuses on your blocking; hit power and speed; Clinch training, which allows you to specialise in the power of your clinches and takedowns, and finally Ground training which improves your ability to transition between positions and your ability to pull off and hold your opponent in submissions.
Training also has its risks. Taking part in each of the sessions runs the risk of doing damage to your fighter which could put them at a disadvantage in their next fight. Each training is also ranked, and once completed can be automated to save you having to take part in the same mini games every time you wish to level up a particular stat. Success in the training rooms is also tracked overall, with three additional stat bonuses should you be able to perform extremely well overall. Making a fighter worthy of challenging takes a long time, and eventually, you will hit critical junctures in your career that will also begin to take its toll, reducing the amount of development you can endure, so each of these additional bonuses are definitely worth focusing on in the early game.
You can also craft your fighter in the way you choose. Each attack has a variation of moves that can be purchased and upgraded from straight up leg kicks to the most flamboyant capoeira attacks, and with a deep, upgradable perk system that allows you to focus on key attack styles or endurance feats, there is a huge range of options available to craft a unique challenger.
Being the high-intensity sport that it is, you are always battling against your career bar. Each fight takes its toll and moves you one step closer to retirement. To balance this out, you have your fan base. Winning fights and random events can increase your fan base allowing you to prolong your career far beyond when you would normally have hung up your mitts.
These random events come in many shapes and sizes. Some will give a benefit to a specific training focus, others will allow you to take part in a high reward fight at short notice with less training time, while others will award extra fans for public appearances or PR bonuses.
Visually UFC2 is graphic, but in a good way. Character models are extremely realistic with real-time bruising, blood smears and cuts that give an instant visual cue to where damage is most intensified, even to the level of seeing showers of sweat and blood spray across the canvas when a particularly heavy hit lands. Thankfully I didn’t see any of the strangely contorted moves that have plagued EA fighting games in the past, and it all just looks outstanding.
One issue I had is that even on the easiest setting it is extremely easy to have a bad fight. I lost count of the number of events I lost due to a lucky hit, or an unfortunate foot slip even when I had been dominating the match. It can feel a little unfair, but inline with the quick-pace of the sport, you can thankfully, instantly restart a fight – in career mode at least. This in itself can actually be beneficial as it gives you a trial fight in order to understand an opponent’s strengths and weaknesses and focus on attacks that give you the best chance of a win.
Sadly, the biggest negative I found was in regard to the online modes. Frequent lag spikes were encountered on both sides, making the fights a bit of a pot luck as to whether you will get a fair bout, with the possibility of you or your opponent getting a lucky hit in when the other is waiting for the game to catch up. This didn’t occur on all matches, and I still got a lot of enjoyment in the online modes, but hopefully this will be addressed by EA. That being said, and with these modes effectively hamstrung, it does reduce the content available unless you are happy to persist with the online modes regardless.
Overall, UFC2 doesn’t fail to impress. There’s a huge range of options available to you, whether you are looking for something to really get your teeth into with the Ultimate Team and Career modes, or if you are more interested in quick-burst fun, you have online tournaments, quick fight, Live Events and Online Rivalries with which to vent some aggression on the AI or your friends.
If you have any interest in realistic fighting games, UFC2 is a sound investment I can’t recommend enough.
Thanks to Xbox and EA for supporting TiX